12 Canadians among 399 approved claims to GM ignition switch fund

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By Jackson Hayes

Of the 165 claims submitted to the General Motors ignition switch fund by Canadian residents, just 12 were deemed eligible for compensation with five of those payments made to family members of people who died as a result of the automaker’s faulty switches.

Six of the approved filings fell under category two claims meaning physical injuries requiring hospitalization within 48 hours of the accident.

The remaining person deemed eligible for compensation suffered a category one claim or physical injuries resulting in quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns.

The findings, shared with Canadian AutoWorld by Camille Biros of the Law Offices of Kenneth R. Feinberg, show that despite conjecture to the contrary, Canadian victims of General Motors’ deliberate delay in recalling vehicles outfitted with its failed ignition switches did receive financial compensation from the fund.

GM’s Compensation Claims Resolution Facility was established in the summer of 2014 to provide “swift compensation” to eligible individuals injured or killed as a result of the automaker’s faulty switches.

The facility says it reviewed, evaluated and resolved 4,343 claims and determined that 399 or 9.2 per cent were eligible for compensation from the program. The approval percentage for Canadians was a little lower at 7.2 per cent.

Total payout has been $594,535,752.

Biros, the compensation fund’s deputy director, says it is not reporting aggregate compensation by geographic area so Canada-specific financial details are not known.

Though the facility has completed its work on the fund, GM says it still faces more than 200 wrongful death and injury lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada. Reports indicate there are also over 100 lawsuits related to the reduced value of the owners’ vehicles.

Filing a claim with the fund did not preclude anyone from also suing the company, though the 399 customers deemed eligible for compensation had to dismiss any lawsuits and provide evidence of the dismissal before getting any money.

Compensated claimants also give up any rights to participate in any further class proceedings.

Roch Dupont of the Merchant Law Group says his firm helped 20 Canadian clients submit claims to the Feinberg fund and that none were paid out.

“The reasons for rejection varied except to say the cause of the accident was not the ignition switch,” Dupont explains. “They note there were other factors in play, most of them were blamed on bad driving.”

He says Merchant has joined forces with two other law firms and is continuing with a class action against GM Canada. It now sits with case management in Ontario and Dupont says they were waiting to hear if GM Canada was going to make an offer or go to trial.

David Paterson, V-P of corporate and environmental affairs for GM Canada, says he was not aware of any pending legal action.